I’m particularly enjoying these prompts that push me to think about some of my unconsidered preferences around stories and characters. Today’s DIY MFA Book Club prompt is “what is your favourite story type?” referring to, for example, underdog stories or rom-coms or epic quest-type stories.
My first reaction is always something in the order of “I like what I like,” but that isn’t very helpful to myself, let alone in answering this kind of question. Really thinking about the stories that we like tells us a lot about the stories that we are trying to write.
So, I think that what I really like are stories about people (women mostly) finding a higher purpose and, most often, it is something that is of benefit to others. I also like an aspect of mystery or discovery, where the characters need to figure out something that is hidden or previously undiscovered.
All that to say I prefer science fiction and mysteries in general. More often than in fiction in general or in other genres, they fill my need for those combined concepts.
One of my absolutely favourite tv shows as a kid was Wonder Woman, which is, of course, about someone finding a cause to fight for and, along the way, having to figure out who the real enemies are (which is very well developed in the recent movie).
I also read the standard children’s mystery series — Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, The Bobbsey Twins (which I wouldn’t recommend now, because a lot of those stories were pretty racist) — which either developed or filled the need for the idea of higher purpose for others while figuring things out.
As I got older, I started reading the classic Golden Age writers — Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers. My favourite character is Sayers’ Harriet Vane, who is far more than Lord Peter’s (eventual) wife.
I also read a lot of science fiction. (Actually, I just read a lot as a kid!) But starting with things like Heinlein’s juvenile books, which although mostly about boys, had a sense of unbridled adventure and discovery. They could build a rocket ship in their backyard and fly to the Moon. Or train to go into outer space.
I still seek out these same sorts of stories. I still love mysteries, particularly those with an amateur sleuth who feels called to help others and ensure justice is had. And I love SF and most super hero movies for the same reason. The average person (with perhaps hints of their capacity) who transcends that and helps others while figuring out what is really going on.
These days, I write mostly science fiction and my main characters tend to be women who tick these boxes. They explore and discover and struggle with their relationships with those around them, trying to help or not harm.